SBJ/September 5-11, 2011/Opinion

Understanding why, how and when to begin that job search

Traditionally, Jan. 1 marks the start of the New Year, but for me, it’s always been Labor Day: back to school, Jerry Lewis telethon, last days of summer and fantasy draft night kicking off another NFL season.

Whatever the year’s turning date, it often triggers a period of reflection centering on the search for a balance of life and career satisfaction. The sports industry is event-anchored and a vacuum of home and family time. Often we manage the conflict of professional demands and a satisfying personal life.

My father was correct when he declared, “Life doesn’t get easier as we get older.” When life-needs and career-wants converge (especially in a depressed economy), our stress levels heighten, leading to a constant job evaluation as seen through the prism of:

• Employment status — fully utilized and/or in a secure position

• Career fulfillment — satisfaction in responsibility and influence

• State of business — confidence in company’s prospects

• Compensation — meeting lifestyle status

• Work environment — relationship with boss and organization

• Time away from home — manageable work hours, travel and commuting

Whatever your career status, there are considerations to make when job discontent creeps in.

Understand the need to search

Before investing time in forwarding résumés and informing your network of your interest to move on, conduct a self-assessment and ask:

Who are you?
Determine how compatible your career aspirations are with past job experiences and recognized talents. For example, let’s say you know someone pursuing a property sales job. Are they really a sponsorship sales talent? If so, why? Do they have tangible sales results and a developed network of buyers?

Where are you?
The more we earn, the greater our responsibilities, and the more life tests us. We frequently adapt to how our lives and careers teeter between rewards and challenges. No matter what your sports industry goals, there are general life stages that highlight career status and personal challenges that influence job motivation and performance.

LIFE STAGES ON THE CAREER LADDER

FOUNDATION (mid-to-late 20s)
• Searching for career orientation

• Manageable responsibilities, building social network, starting to save

ASPIRING (late-20s to mid-30s)
• Have aggregated work experience, but getting impatient for new challenges and rewards

• Reaching life-changing milestones — marriage, home ownership, family, etc. — and adjusting on how to support them

GROUNDED (mid-30s to mid-40s)
• Have significant work experience and want more meaningful benefits (i.e., responsibilities, compensation, recognition)

• Often pulled in many directions — work, family, community, parent care, lifestyle needs, etc. — and time is a valuable commodity

PINNACLE (mid-40s to mid-50s)
• Reaching the peak of corporate ladder and earning potential

• Facing period of maximum expenses (e.g., college tuition, mortgage, lifestyle)

TRANSITION (mid-50s on)
• Winding down full-time commitment, but still need income and feeling of self-worth

• Facing “empty nesting” and postcareer withdrawal

What are you ready to do?
Confirm how you’re positioned in your company and industry as a means to greater self-confidence with a potential search. Imagine if you went to SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference on your own. Would you feel comfortable in that environment? Invest time in understanding your search needs, saving time and positioning you as a thoughtful candidate.

Define your objective(s)

Evaluate objectives against new opportunities to prevent short-term career stops. Carefully construct career objectives and visualize how possible jobs might play out. Here are some examples of career objectives:

• Survival. “I am out of work/underemployed and need to pay bills, not find the perfect job. I know tickets sales is a short-term fix, but I don’t have the luxury of time at this point.”

• Everyday comfort. “I have been running between properties and agencies. I need stability and a place to stay for a while. I want a collegial environment with manageable hours and with minimal commuting and travel requirements.”

• Controlling my destiny. “I need a job where I’m directly responsible for my compensation and security. This could be an equity position in a startup agency or owning my own consulting shop. Either way, I want greater independence, and I’m willing to take the necessary risks.”

• Intrinsic matters. “I need an opportunity where my contribution matters and there’s mutual respect with the people I work with.”

• King of the hill. “I aspire to be a ‘Forty Under 40’ recipient and I’m willing to pay the price to accomplish that goal. It’s important that my colleagues and the industry recognize me by title, compensation level, management responsibility and/or privileges.”

Prepare, Position, Pursue

After defining your career objective, it’s time to “go to market” with your brand capabilities. This requires discipline and discretion on how and where to market yourself. Looking for new opportunities is a full-time job, whether you’re unemployed or not, and demands regularly scheduled attention. Set benchmarks to stay on plan. For example:

• Prioritize outreach goals per week: quality (A-, B-, C-ranked opportunities) and quantity (number of outreaches per week)

• Define objectives for job-search related meetings

• Aim to have at least three job opportunities constantly in play

• Develop an outreach tracking system

• Target only opportunities that fit your objectives

• Focus on industry sectors (e.g., sales, marketing, licensing) that match your predetermined parameters

• Polish your story and presentation

Search and Support

As much as you need to practice discretion in your job search, secure a “search team” to optimize your efforts. Select three confidantes who know the sports industry and can regulate your highs and lows.

With your outreach, identify individuals who are willing to spend political capital on your behalf. Many talk a good game, but be wary of those who don’t follow through in a meaningful way and/or on a timely basis.

Waiting for feedback can be nerve-wracking. Keep your spirits up and your focus sharp when progress is minimal. Explore opportunities to give back to your community, such as volunteering, mentoring or coaching. In addition, stay active via physical exercise and/or mental stimulation (taking courses, attending seminars, speaking engagements, etc.).

No matter when the New Year starts for you, it’s a valuable trigger date for personal and professional reflection. Life may not get easier as we get older, but a disciplined job search offers you the best chance to balance the work-life challenge in your favor.

Glenn Horine (ghorine@handhconsulting.net) is the executive director of Iona College’s Center for Sports and Entertainment Studies, an entrepreneur, business development consultant and industry career counselor/lecturer.

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